Project: Solar loans
Country: Solomon Islands
Partner: South Pacific Business Development
Date: Jan 2016 – June 2017
Grant: USD $44,078
Target: 1,222 solar loans
Current reach: 822 solar loans (as of 31st September 2017)
The lack of access to electricity is a significant impediment to development in the Solomon Islands. Estimates show that nearly 85% of the 91,250 households (2009 census) in the country are without access to safe, affordable and reliable electricity. For those connected to the electricity grid, the cost of electricity is very high at nearly SBD$6.50 per unit (kWh) (around 85 US cents), representing the most expensive electricity cost in the Pacific region and perhaps one of the highest in the world. Current solar offerings in the market place are too expensive for the majority of households to purchase outright.
These factors combine to mean that households and entire communities are dependent on alternative lighting sources such as kerosene and firewood that are not only expensive but harmful to the environment and individuals.
SPBD offers a sustainable and affordable solar energy solution for household lighting financed through a specialized microloan offered to women. SPBD offers the solar lighting kits at a discounted rate of SBD $1,650 (US$215). Households repay the small loans incrementally from the savings from their non-use of kerosene lamps.
The kit provides light bulbs, a mobile charger point and provision for expansion of additional light points, with a two year replacement warranty ensuring that beneficiaries have uninterrupted access to solar electricity. Indirectly, the loans contribute to reducing dependence on fossil fuel (kerosene) and firewood that are detrimental to the environment and long term health of users.
Assessments show that the solar lighting products benefit households in a number of ways, including:
Improving microenterprise productivity as household members are able to work beyond daylight hours
Improving household productivity, including increased opportunity for children to study
Access to mobile phone charging enabling clients to maintain communication and access mobile bank accounts
Besides providing rural Solomon Islanders with access to convenient, cost-effective electricity, the product has the potential to introduce women clients into the formal financial sector by providing access to savings and other credit products, as well as boosting their level of financial literacy.
In May 2015, SPBD conducted a successful pilot project in partnership with Honiara Hardware Supply to provide a D-Light solar lighting solution to its clients by providing loans to purchase the product, clearly establishing the demand for solar lighting products among SPBD’s current and planned future client base.
PFIP’s support has enabled SPBD to expand its outreach and build capacity through recruitment of additional field personnel to promote the solar lighting kit and accompanying loans, conduct awareness and training for prospective clients, as well as enhancing infrastructure to expand operations to various villages and communities to promote the new product.
The South Pacific Business Development Microfinance (Solomon Islands) Ltd. is a private limited company under the Solomon Islands Companies Act 2009 and began operations in Solomon Islands in November 2012.
SPBD is a network of microfinance organizations operating in Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and the Solomon Islands dedicated to eradicating poverty by empowering women in poor rural villages with the opportunity to start, grow and maintain sustainable, income generating micro-enterprises.